HAMSA: 5 Women’s Dances from the Middle East
An evening of dance artistry, multimedia education and Q&A highlighting the richly diverse cultural heritages of the greater Middle East; featuring beautiful women’s dances from Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran, and Afghanistan.
Book now at your studio, theater, community center, or learning institution.
Can be booked as a solo show by Hannah Romanowsky, or in conjunction with workshop intensives that will culminate in an opportunity for students to perform in the show. Inquire for rates.
This production debuted the day after the Paris bombings in November 2015, when Europe was in the heat of the refugee crisis and many Westerners were torn between wanted to act from a place of compassion and humanity, and the impulse to protect the citizens of the EU against vast influx of immigrants from cultures whose values were different from their own. The terrorist bombings in Paris seemed to confirm for some that we have reason to be afraid. After hearing this sad news, while putting the finishing touches on the show, I was dismayed, for a moment doubting the import of what I wanted to express. In this time of reactionism, who is going to listen to and support my work? And why do I feel so invested in it, anyways?
I came to the conclusion that it is exactly in times like this that we must move towards those perspectives that retain our sense of humanity. The arts are a beautiful way to connect with others who may speak different languages, dress differently, and call God by a different name. We all create, dream, and love. We all want to find the highest expression of who we are and create a better life for our family. We are all a little spark of divine spirit. It is the misguided ones that don’t understand this that cause all the trouble – and they come from many nations. Some of us are just fortunate enough -in my opinion- to be born into circumstances that support our growth through providing our basic needs; including food, shelter, safety, and the opportunity to feel valued by society.
Hamsa is the Arabic word for 5. It is also a symbol of protection, especially for women, also referred to as the hand of Fatima. Prevelent throughout the Middle East and North Africa, where it is incorporate into jewelry and wall decorations to ward against the evil eye. the HAMSA goes all the way back to ancient artifacts in Mesopotamia related to Ishtar/Innana. Early use of the hamsa has been traced to ancient Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq). A universal sign of protection, the image of the open right hand is seen in Mesopotamian artifacts in the amulets of the Qāt Ištar/Inana. Protects women in childbirth.
I chose this as the title of tonight’s program because I feel a personal intention of wanted to wish protection on those that are suffering very profoundly right now in the Middle East, specifically Iraq and Syria, and those going to great lengths to protect their family and create a better life.
I am profoundly humbled by the fact that here I am in one of the safest parts of the world able to make my living engaged in the beautiful and rich arts of the Middle East when many of those people are living under constant threat. And it touches me all more that women in many of these countries do not have the luxury of being a professional performing artist, and if they are it is often with great personal cost.
I don’t consider these cultures as Other. I consider the heritages of these lands to be part of the heritage of humanity. The birthplace of civilization, it also the birthplace of many of the worlds great spiritual traditions and the center of where ancient knowledge was collected, translated, and spread. Greek thought, on which the United States prides itself as being based on, came down to us through Islamic scholars of the Golden Age in Bagdad.
I also believe this is relevant because our lives are intertwined. What happens in the Middle East affects us, as we them.
I believe if we as a nation/culture are going to throw our weight around the world, for better or worse, we have a responsibility and moral obligation to develop a more sophisticated understanding of the the places and people whose lives we profoundly impact/alter. Only then we can make wise choices.
It is with this intention that I offer this performance tonight. It comes from my heart, and from wanting to honor the vibrant cultures that have enriched my life immeasurably.